A new batch of wines from 2014 and 2015
By winemaker Ariki Hill
In March of 2017, we bottled the bulk of 2015 wines. Namely, the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also bottled the Estate wines from 2014, which always benefit from the extra time in the barrels. As winemaker, I see vintages constantly, and look at parallels between current and past vintages, and I make mental predictions as to how a vintage might mature based on previous seasonal experiences. By trying to keep the winemaking constant (within reason), the only outlying factors are picking dates and climatic conditions. Sure, there will be those who suggest a multitude of other variables, but I’m keeping it simple.
The 2015 vintage stands out to me for being one of the last years of the extended drought, which also took a heavy toll on yield; simply, a low yield vintage. By comparison, 2016 was also affected by the continued drought, but yields were significantly up and more to the average. More on the 2016 vintage in a later update.
Regarding the 2015 vintage, it’s easy to generalize, but the reality is some areas fare better than others, i.e. better access to water, wind breaks, etc. Tantara has grape sources that extend from Lompoc in the Santa Rita Hills to Santa Lucia Highlands, a total distance of 180 miles.
Broadly speaking, in 2015 the yields were down, predominantly due to shatter (a condition where individual berries in a bunch fail to develop, often made more prolific by frost, rain or extreme winds). The result is lower yield and in many cases, an earlier vintage due to less fruit per vine to ripen. The 2014 Estate and 2015 single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnays have now been in bottles for 4 months, at witch point they begin to show true expression and are finally released from the shackles of sulphur additions, filtration and mechanical transfer from tank to bottle, a period we call “bottle shock”.
My observation from tasting through the new bottling:
Whites – refined and concentrated with flavor profiles in the ripe pear, white peach and nectarine. There is less tropical fruit and perceived sweet characters than previous vintages.
Reds – Pinot Noir: Solid concentration with extended tannins mostly in the red fruit/black fruit spectrum. There is some lingering fruit sweetness, which suggests cherry cordial, and liqueur on several of the SRH wines. The Dierberg Pinot Noir is a personal favorite.
Estate Reds – 2014 Cabernet Franc: definitely bold and assertive with subtle oak accents similar in style to 2013.2014 Syrah: bold new world style with opulent black fruit and huge mouth filling generosity and smoky oak tannins.